Democratic Party meeting becomes strange pep rally

48hillsjungflier

Yes, this is for real. They were actually handing these out. Is “not as good as Obama” a great endorsement in San Francisco these days?

Editor’s note: The San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee has been taken over by the moderate/conservative side, represented by the chair, Mary Jung, who is a real-estate lobbyist. (Yes: While our elected Democrats in Sacramento are fighting for tenant protections, the chair of the local party is lobbying for landlords.) A move this week to make Jung account for how she spent a big chunk of tech-mogul money turned into quite a scene that may not bode so well for the local party. Critics were raising real issues about Jung’s political connections and spending. Her allies turned it into something entirely different. Here’s our correspondent’s report.

By Kevin Bard 

JUNE 27, 2014 — If you have never attended a meeting of your local party’s County Central Committee, don’t flagellate yourself over it. They are often dull affairs.

But July 25th’s monthly meeting of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee turned into a bizarre pep rally.

You see, its chairwoman, Mary Jung, the director of government and community relations for the SF Realtors Association, accepted a last-minute $25,000 donation from Ron Conway, a titan of wealth who is no shrinking violent when it comes to power-projecting onto local politics. This money was meant to encourage folks to vote against Prop. B, the endorsed position of the SF DCCC, via “membership communications calls” from Texas. There was even an ethics charge claiming that the calls mislead voters into thinking that No Wall on the Waterfront wanted them to vote no.

With strategic planning like this, no wonder Prop. B passed by 59 percent a couple of weeks ago.

The main problem lies with the expenditure itself. DCCC member Kelly Dwyer raised ethical questions prior to the June 3rd election, resulting in a letter signed by five other members (Supervisors Eric Mar, John Avalos, and David Campos, along with members Petra DeJesus and Hene Kelly) questioning Jung’s actions.

Before the June 25 meeting, there was some sense in the air that Mary Jung would be forced to resign from the committee, step down as chair, get censured, or at least be encouraged not to run for re-election in two years. I got plenty of emails from the No Wall on the Waterfront team encouraging me to come and testify about Chairwoman Jung’s clear conflict of interest and bylaw violations. (Generally, political boards vote on how to spend sizable amounts of money like this.)

But once I got there, it was the exact opposite.

First of all, Mary Jung’s team had a table outside the door. With food! And orange ribbons to show your support, as if she were a missing soldier or something. (DCCC member Zoe Dunning wore one; a lot of them did, actually.)

When they opened up the meeting to public comment, the gushing that ensued was astonishing. We were hammered by Mary Jung’s many, many virtues, her leadership skills, hard-working, can-do attitude, and undying support from a handful of local Democratic Club leaders, real estate experts, and your garden-variety opportunists. Thankfully, much of what the pro-Jung folks said about the chairwoman’s warm personality had a ring of truth to it, but it wasn’t at all germane to the ethical questions at hand.

Don’t you love appeal-to-emotion fallacies in politics?

After the hour-and-a-half or so of public comment was over, Jung spoke in her own defense, claiming that this type of expenditure had been done before and inviting her adversaries to “bring it.” Jung actually stuck to the question at hand most of the time and made more sense than most of her supporters.

Hene Kelly and Kelly Dwyer were clearly on the defensive, as you generally are when you challenge the winner of a popularity contest. DCCC member David Chiu even asked for a straw poll (loyalty oath, really – the third or fourth one of the night) to see if there were enough votes to remove Mary Jung and then to see if there were enough votes to keep her. DeJesus questioned the rules of such a maneuver. But the point was moot.

In light of my friend Joel Engardio’s recent column, San Francisco moderates (is it okay to call them conservatives now?) are clearly going to campaign on a false martyrdom narrative. With their influence, money, real estate, seemingly-happy children, access to the most expensive meals around, and near-automatic employability, SF’s economically conservative politicos are clearly the victims of rabid progressive witch. Let’s see if this Republican-esque playbook works out in November and beyond.

As for the handful of speakers in support of the letter opposing Chairwoman Jung’s actions, I remember David Waggoner (who almost ran for supervisor against Scott Wiener) getting the most applause, Wendy Aragon (now a candidate for Community College Board) being brave (a possible DCCC endorsement is on the line), Patrick Connors being clever, and of course myself, being brief, sassy, and philosophical.

I reluctantly spoke at the last minute on the need of the DCCC to help many of its smaller chartered clubs centralize when and where they endorse candidates for office. It would be a great relief to Democrats running for office to not run as fast or in as many directions – take it from me. And in all honesty, if Ron Conway can throw down for some shitty calls from Texas, why can’t he throw down for this?

How much carry over will this meeting have for Jung, the moderates and progressives, the upcoming DCCC endorsements (or value thereof), and big money in local politics? I guess that depends on how memorable pep rallies actually are. Do you remember the last one you attended?

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14 Responses to Democratic Party meeting becomes strange pep rally

  1. Sam says:

    As the city’s demographic evolution continues, isn’t it inevitable that the major local political institutions, such as DCCC, reflect those changes? It would certainly be odd if they did not as that would imply an intransigence in the face of transition.

    The city’s populace is becoming more moderate and the DCCC can either adapt or become less relevant. And bear in mind that this is an organization that would be regarded as quasi-socialist in almost any other American city. And certainly not “conservative” as you suggested, albeit only half seriously.

    The idea that a winning coalition can be formed only of the city’s most failing demographics has been shown to be erroneous. Progressives haven’t won a mayoral race for decades. And even the BofS, despite gerrymandering the electoral process desperately to try and help the left (district elections, RCV), is moving to the center.

    Those who wield the real power are accordingly acolytes of the center, and Wiener is only the most obviously successful of the politicians driving the new San Francisco and its evolutionary agenda.

    Are you part of the solution or part of the problem?.

    • Dave says:

      Scott Wiener is a cancer, that is hell bent on turning San Francisco into an east coast hellscape. He used the gay community to get into office, and then threw them under a Google bus. Not since Roy Cohn has the gay community seen such a self absorbed monster, that was willing to use his own to further his career. He should be ashamed of himself.

      • BP says:

        Oh, please. Hyperbolize much, Dave?

        • Sam says:

          The left appears to have stolen the mantle of intolerance from the right. When did that happen?

          • Kevin Bard says:

            Sam, you seem to be confusing intolerance with anger and cynicism. (All of these emotions are non-partisan.) And when it comes to non-stop litmus testing, conservative Dems in this town can throw down. If Wednesday’s DCCC meeting is any indicator.

  2. pdquick says:

    The only thing inevitable is that the big money that has controlled the Democratic Party for the last 35 years would want the SF local party apparatus back. They let the progressives play for a while; after all, it suits their purpose of persuading the progressive base that they actually have some power. But when there’s money to be made, first things first.

    That’s why the Democratic Party is moribund as a vehicle for progressive causes. Don’t believe me? Just look at the latest session of the Democratic supermajority, which managed to go AWOL on at least two of the most important progressive issues of the year, Ellis Act reform and the minimum wage.

    It’s a bait and switch, and this is the switch.

    • Sam says:

      Then why don’t you form your own party then? Call it the SF Progressive Party.

      Or of course there is the SF Green Party (chortle). Although of course any politician with ambition ditches the SFGP and joins the Dems.

      Progressives have a fairly simple choice, given that there are never enough of them to wield real power. Either they compromise and move to the center, in order to gain influence and at least achieve some of their goals. Or they remain “pure” and unadulterated by moderatism, and are condemned to eternal irrelevance.

      Politicians always move to the center when they get power. And that is equally true for right-wing extremists as well. In the end, the people do not want extremists of any hue. They want sound, competent administration of the city, and not ideological posturing.

      • Kc Kimber says:

        Sam there is already a significant faction within the Democratic Party that organizes under progressive ideology. One of the largest caucuses of the California Democratic Party is the Progressive Caucus. Have you ever heard of the Congressional Progressive Caucus? ( http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/caucus-members/ ) Us progressives have sixty-seven members of congress — none of them are from San Francisco.

        The claim that there are never enough of us progressives to wield real power is false. Did you know that in 1912 a man who served as President of the United States as a Republican split the party in two and created the Progressive Party? That man was Theodore Roosevelt.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Party_(United_States,_1912)

        The biggest fear — hope for some– that Democratic Party leaders have is that history will repeat itself — as is often the case — and that the progressive faction will break off and form our own party.

        It is not true that politicians always move to the center when they get power. Theodore Roosevelt and Bernie Sanders disprove this. I would say that Gavin Newsom since gaining higher officer as Lt. Governor has went from being a blue-dog to at least faux-progressive. People who are in politics for their own benefit and not the benefit of their fellow human beings are the politicians who move to the center.

        Voter turnout trends show increased voter apathy. The reason isn’t because they are satisfied; there are no longer candidates which interest them in a genuine way. The primary cause could be political centrism. As an ideology centrism is responsible for giving us a police state that is governed by a commercial oligarchy. http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/constitution/item/18120-princeton-northwestern-study-seems-to-conclude-u-s-an-oligarchy

        A new party which consists of those disillusioned or disenfranchised by the oligarchy — “condemned to… rrelevance”– will rise up to prominence. They will be supported by voters, whom will find a revival in their civic duty to vote because they will offer a viable alternative to the authoritarian oligarchy.

        • Sam says:

          Unfortunately there is no indication there that who do not vote hold opinions much different from those who do vote. There may be widespread apathy, but that can as easily be seen as an indicator of satisfaction and a lack of fear as it is opposition to any particular political viewpoint.

          If anything (and disregarding your rather spurious examples from over 100 years ago and a rather quirky senator from Vermont) is that politicians do become more moderate once they attain power. Both Obama and Bush ended up delivering a lot less of their original ideological aspirations as they threatened. Both free public healthcare for all and the privatization of social security failed, for instance.

          Ultimately being centrist is not an ideology, as you described it, at all. I see it rather as a statement that we feel secure and strong in this nation. And that when we vote, we do not wish tor wholesale change for the nation, but rather we wish to maintain our strong position in the world and, crucially, to manage the economy viably.

          So I would categorize centrism as the anti-ideology. In other words, the voters are saying “don’t rock the boat too much”. In somewhere like Italy, who gets power switches the country from capitalism to communism, and back again. Americans have no desire for that type of volatility. We already know what this nation stands for and what we want from our government. We want competence, not revolution. Pragmatists, not ideologues.

          If there is a major theme in living memory, it is mistrust of government, which the apathy you cited hints at, but it is also about how Reaganite suspicion of the government has become mainstream.

          Put quite simply, we do not look to politicians to solve our problems. We can fix things ourselves. we mostly just want the government to get out of our way rather than stick their oar into everything

          But we appear to agree that SF Progressives should form there own party if they aren’t happy with the Dems. However, accept that they can achieve more as part of a powerful party than as all of a fringe party with no power. But I suppose it depends how ideologically pure you wish to feel.

          Compromise is the art of politics.

    • Karl Young says:

      I do believe you and there’s no better example than how Mayor Lee and his pals in Sacramento have sucked up to PG+E in their, most likely successful, campaign to kill the only option we hoi poloi have re. weighing in on climate change, i.e. community choice aggregation (cca). I.e. the trojan horse AB 2145 which has already passed the Assembly and which, innocuously sounding enough, would just change the default from opting out of cca to option in to cca, looks likely to pass. This would basically make cca economically infeasible for anyone to implement, and thus kill it. And this was hustled through by the duplicitous Democratic demagogues. Looks like suicide is the only option (politically speaking).

      • Sam says:

        If changing from “contracting out” to “contracting in ” kills CCA then the idea clearly doesn’t have enough merit to warrant the change anyway.

  3. Kevin Bard says:

    “With their influence, money, real estate, seemingly-happy children, access to the most expensive meals around, and near-automatic employability, SF’s economically conservative politicos are clearly the victims of a rabid progressive witchhunt.” Actually.

  4. zRants says:

    The new residents of San Francisco appear to be sitting out the politics that they know nothing about. They may at some time take a side, but so far they don’t care.

  5. Tico says:

    They need to call themselves what they are: Republicans. You know, like McCain, Boehner, McConnell, Limbaugh…
    The vanity and corruption are just breathtaking.

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